Students of the Music Faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts

Leoš Janáček Fairy Tale, Violin Sonata, 1. X. 1905 (“From the street”)


This morning matinee will present three important works by Janáček in the authentic environment of the composer´s house. They are performed by young artists from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, an important music school which celebrated its seventieth anniversary in 2017.

Fairy Tale, a piece for cello and piano, is significant proof of Janáček´s love for Russia. When composing it he was inspired by an epic poem by Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky, Fairy Tale – “The Tale of Tsar Berendyey”. Janáček composed what was originally a three-movement musical work at the beginning of 1910 and announced before the premiere on 13th March 1910 at Brno’s Organ School that it was only a part of what he intended to be a more extensive composition. In 1912, he re-made Fairy Tale into a four-movement piece before returning it to a three-movement form one year later. The final version of the composition appeared when preparing a version for publishing in 1923. The fairy tale about a Tsar who lost his happiness over a foolish promise is one of the 20th century’s most charming compositions for the cello.

The Sonata for Violin and Piano was created at around the same time as Fairy Tale. Janáček worked on it from 1914-15 and was influenced by the political situation at that time, which is documented by the following recollection: “I wrote the violin sonata at the beginning of the war, 1914, when we were expecting the Russians to appear in Moravia at any moment.” The first composition, which was probably originally intended to be an independent piece, was Ballad; the other movements weren’t added until 1915. The composer waited until 1920 to revise the work. The first performance took place in Brno on 24th April 1922 at an evening of new Moravian music organized by the Club of Young Moravian Composers.

The third composition of the matinée is a piano work entitled 1. X. 1905 (“From the Street”). This piece was created spontaneously in reaction to a tragedy which occurred during a demonstration for the foundation of the Brno Czech University. After years of efforts to create a Czech university in Brno, the government decided that Brno’s citizens should make the decision themselves. However, Brno was a predominantly German city and German municipal representatives were concerned that this would provide Czechs with an increase in influence. They declared a “Volkstag” on 1st October 1905, inviting German associations and organizations from the wide surrounding area to Brno in order to demonstrate their disapproval over the founding of a Czech university in Brno. The Czech inhabitants of Brno reacted by organizing a large anti-German demonstration. The result was street fighting between both camps, requiring intervention from the police and later the army. During one of the clashes, young Czech worker František Pavlík was killed near Brno’s Community Hall. This tragic event prompted Janáček to write the composition From the street I. X. 1905. It was originally in three movements, but he burned the last movement immediately before its Brno premiere on 27. January 1906, and after the next performance in Prague he actually threw the whole manuscript into the Vltava River. The work was first performed by pianist Ludmila Tučková, who luckily kept a copy of the original, though she waited till 1924 to reveal it to the public. Thanks to her, this piano composition, which had been forgotten for many years by both the composer and all around him, was preserved.

Jiří Zahrádka